HC Deb 18 July 1995 vol 263 cc1442-4
9. Mr. Ian Bruce

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the trend in waiting lists in Dorset compared to the rest of the country. [33217]

Mr. Malone

The numbers of patients on waiting lists fell last year both in Dorset, by 1.3 per cent., and nationally, by 2 per cent. More importantly, Dorset hospitals have made considerable progress in reducing waiting times.

Mr. Bruce

Does my hon. Friend agree that much of the success of the hospitals in Dorset can be explained by exactly what the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) asked for—the evidence? The evidence is that going ahead quickly with fundholding and trusts has been extremely successful. Will my hon. Friend congratulate the people in the NHS in my constituency and throughout Dorset on their work? There is, perhaps, one cautionary tale. I would be grateful if my hon. Friend would look at dentists in Dorset to see whether he can get them as well sorted out as the rest of the health service in Dorset has been.

Mr. Malone

On the last point, I am of course happy to look at the position of dentists. I am also happy to congratulate all those who work in hospitals in Dorset. There have been fantastic achievements. There were 97 six-month waiters in the West Dorset General Hospitals trust in September 1994. That figure is now down by 100 per cent. There was one six-month waiter at the Poole Hospital NHS trust in 1994; that figure is down by 100 per cent. The Dorset Healthcare trust had only three six-month waiters in 1994; that figure has been reduced by 100 per cent. At the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS trust, there were 333 patients who had waited for more than six months at 30 September 1994; that figure is down by 100 per cent. That is a 100 per cent. success rate for west Dorset. My hon. Friend is right to congratulate all those who are responsible for delivering it.

Mrs. Golding

The Minister may be interested to know that I worked in the Dorchester hospital many years ago. For that reason, I have taken a keen interest in what is happening in the area. The Minister quotes figures. He should be aware that 811 operations were cancelled in Dorset in the past financial year and that 20 per cent. of the patients involved were not readmitted within one month as agreed in the charter. The Minister will also know that nationally in the three months to March 1995, there was a 22 per cent. increase in operation cancellations. The number of patients who were not readmitted within one month increased massively to 49 per cent. on the previous three months.

There is great concern that so many operations are being cancelled, often at the very last moment when patients have received their pre-medication and have been fully prepared for the theatre. Surely the Minister cannot continue to be complacent. The situation is causing extreme distress and inconvenience to many people, especially to children. What does he intend to do about it?

Mr. Malone

I welcome the hon. Lady to the Dispatch Box and to her responsibilities. Cancellation of operations across the country as a whole is a matter for concern, and one that individual hospitals are addressing. Only last week I visited Basingstoke hospital, where a pre-admissions ward has reduced cancellations almost to zero. We must make such initiatives widely known throughout the country, so that the problem can be dealt with.